Released yesterday, the latest update to Apple's mobile operating system makes it easier for users to locate their misplaced AirPods and introduces a new look for the Settings app. Likely to be the last update before iOS 11 comes out later this year, iOS 10.3 also comes with a new file system designed for improved storage, and new features for app developers.
Devices that support iOS 10.3 include iPhone 5, 6 and 7 models, the iPhone SE, the iPad Air, the iPad Air 2, and the fourth-generation iPad.
Since iOS 10 was released in September, Apple has updated the operating system several times to address a number of issues and add new features and functions. This latest version of iOS 10.3 has seen seven beta releases since the first came out in late January.
File System Optimized for Flash/SSD Storage
Apple users are noting on Twitter and elsewhere that downloading and installing iOS 10.3 could take longer than some previous versions as this release comes with a number of major changes. Many report that their devices show improved memory and performance after updating.
One of the big changes arriving with iOS 10.3 is the Apple File System (APFS) that replaces the Hierarchical File System Apple has been using for more than 30 years. Announced at last summer's Worldwide Developers Conference, APFS is optimized for Flash and SSD storage and also delivers many other improvements, Apple said.
"Apple File System is a new, modern file system for iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS," Apple said in its online developer guide. "It is optimized for Flash/SSD storage and features strong encryption, copy-on-write metadata, space sharing, cloning for files and directories, snapshots, fast directory sizing, atomic safe-save primitives, and improved file system fundamentals."
New Support for Finding AirPods
In its review of the iOS 10.3 release, Ars Technica noted yesterday that the update will "automatically convert your iDevice's filesystem from HFS+ to APFS when you install it, making it the first Apple operating system to ship with APFS as a non-beta default filesystem." Ars Technica said that rolling out the new file system to Apple's biggest platform first "feels pretty brave," adding that the move makes sense because mobile devices tend to have "predictable and uniform partition maps."
Computer security analyst Graham Cluley commented about the new file system's arrival on Twitter yesterday, noting, "Hmm . . . lot to go wrong. Think I'll let other folks install this before me."
Another new feature of iOS 10.3 could be a welcome addition for owners of Apple's new Bluetooth-powered audio devices, the AirPods. Both small and wireless, the new earbuds are easy to misplace, so Apple has added the ability to locate them using the Find my iPhone feature. In addition to showing the current or last known location of the AirPods, the update lets users play a sound on the AirPods to help track them down.
Other updates arriving with iOS 10.3 include new Siri support for bill paying and ride booking, shortcuts in CarPlay, support for searching "parked car " in Maps, and a rent-once-watch-anywhere feature for iTunes movies. Developers will also gain new tools for updating app icons, and posting public responses to customer reviews on the iTunes and iOS apps stores.